When a Stranger at My Door Judged Me for Looking Like I Had Been Sleeping
I sat on the couch, curled into a tight ball, circling the fringe of my blanket around my fingers, absorbed in a novel by one of my favorite authors. My 4-year-old daughter sat at my feet, playing with Legos and singing a made-up song.
Yes, it had been a tough day with my various chronic illnesses, but we made it. My husband would be home in just over a half an hour. I’d even showered, played a round or two of My Little Pony and put something in the oven for dinner. A friend had taken my oldest for a driving lesson, so all things considered, this day had been a win despite the overwhelming pain and fatigue.
Then the doorbell rang. This was a somewhat rare occurrence since we generally knew when someone was heading our way, and they knew better than to bother with formalities. The only people who rang the doorbell were the sweet neighborhood girls from across the street who my daughter adored. She would be thrilled and delighted to play with them. She rushed to the door and only slowed down as I admonished her once again, “You never answer the door by yourself — only with Mommy.”
My daughter threw open the door with excitement, but instead of three little girls, an immaculately dressed woman stood in front of us. Upon seeing me, she immediately stepped back. “Are you OK? Because you don’t look OK. You must have been sleeping. You were asleep?”
None of what she said seemed to be motivated by concern. She shifted her body in order to look past me and get a better look into my house. Disdain oozed from her being. I couldn’t find words. Who was this woman? Why was she at my door making me feel so small?
“You didn’t answer me. You’re fine?” she barked.
I nodded vaguely, attempting to retreat inside of my body. A man appeared behind her and explained they were realtors, looking to sell houses in the neighborhood. I wondered if she realized her approach wasn’t the way to win friends or business. She continued to stare at me, and in the end, I shook their hands, closed the door and began to sob.
I went to the bathroom mirror and studied my own face. Was my appearance so startling to all who weren’t accustomed to it? Did this woman not realize I was doing the best I could? While I couldn’t answer any of these questions with any certainty, one thing I did know was I never wanted this woman to come to my door again.
My sense of victory of over the day — over illness — had quickly evaporated, and in its place was a deep sense of shame over who I had become. I wanted to hide from the world forever and never face another human again. I never wanted to see that look of disdain and judgment again.
When my husband came home, I cried as I explained the unexpected visit and my desire to hide my shame at who I had become. I asked him to call the agency to ensure this woman never offered her services at our door again. He did.
What he couldn’t do is promise me that no one would ever treat me this way again.
He can’t stop people from making assumptions or from voicing them, even as I fight with all that I have. So today, I appeal to you. Don’t assume. When you come to my door and see a messy, tired mom, please don’t assume she doesn’t care for her children. Don’t assume she’s lazy. Don’t talk to her like an unruly school child. In truth, you know nothing of the battles she fights. You know nothing of the wounds you are ripping open.
So when you are tempted to assume she is sleeping in the middle of the day or skipping work, just don’t. Don’t assume. And if you must assume, assume the best.
A version of this post originally appeared on Her View From Home.
Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images